What We're Watching: Israel-Hamas escalation, Scotland's independence drive, Colombian strike continues

A camera operator falls as an Israeli police officer runs after him during clashes with Palestinians at the compound that houses Al-Aqsa Mosque, known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City, May 10, 2021

Israel strikes Gaza after Hamas rockets: Things escalated very quickly on Monday in Jerusalem. For weeks, violent clashes between Israeli police and Palestinians over tensions surrounding access to the Old City and Al-Aqsa Mosque, as well as an anticipated verdict in the eviction of several Palestinian families from East Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, spread throughout the city. While Israeli police used heavy force to crack down on Palestinians throwing rocks and launching fireworks, the Hamas militant group in the Gaza Strip used the clashes as a pretext to launch a barrage of rockets into Israel. Hamas usually restricts its reach to southern Israel, but this time it launched dozens of rockets into Jerusalem, causing a mass evacuation of the Knesset, Israel's parliament. Israel responded swiftly Monday by bombing the Gaza Strip, resulting in at least 24 Palestinian deaths, including nine children. Since then, Hamas has fired at least 250 rockets into Israel, including several that landed on houses in southern Israel, while Israeli forces have struck 140 targets in the Gaza Strip. For now, both sides appear to be preparing for a massive escalation, raising fears of an outright war.


Scotland's drive for indyref2: The votes are counted from last week's UK elections, and the pro-independence Scottish National Party will again dominate Scotland's parliament. Though the party fell one seat shy of an absolute majority, the pro-independence Green Party will be happy to add its eight votes in support for a second independence referendum. For now, SNP leader and Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says COVID recovery is job one. But she also says a new independence vote is a matter of "when not if," setting up a showdown with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, whose approval is needed (via a majority vote in the UK Parliament) for a binding vote. Here's where the politics becomes fascinating. Today, polls suggest Scots are about evenly split on the independence issue. If Johnson tries to block them from voting, he might inadvertently increase support for breakaway. But agreeing to a vote as soon as next spring is a high-stakes roll of the dice. The question looks likely to end up in court.

"The strike continues" in Colombia: After a meeting with Colombian President Ivan Duque on Monday evening, the leaders of the protests that have rocked the country for nearly two weeks now had a simple message: "the national strike will continue." Earlier in the day, Duque made a last minute trip to Cali, Colombia's third largest city, which over the weekend was wracked by violence including a lethal flareup between indigenous protest groups and other armed civilians. While there Duque acknowledged the frustrations of Colombia's young people. Across the country, nearly two dozen people have been killed in clashes with the police since protests began over a botched tax reform last month, while strikes and roadblocks have begun to crimp food supplies in major cities. The tax bill was withdrawn, but protest leaders are now demanding broader concessions, including holding police accountable for abuses, reforms to the health and education systems, and more than 100 other specific demands including an array of measures to help Colombia's poor, protect the environment, and advance the country's stalled peace process (source in Spanish). Meetings between the federal government and various groups — local officials, unions, and activists — will continue throughout the week. But for now, protest leaders have called for another nationwide demonstration on Wednesday.

What responsibility do wealthy nations have to ensure the least developed countries aren't left behind? Have we actually made any progress since the COVID-19 outbreak? Today at 11am ET/8am PT, join GZERO Media and Microsoft for a live Global Stage discussion: Unfinished Business: Is the world really building back better?

The New Yorker's Susan Glasser will moderate a discussion with Brad Smith, President and Vice Chair, Microsoft; David Malpass, President, World Bank Group; Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights; Ian Bremmer, President and Founder, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media; and Dr. Michael Ryan, Executive Director, WHO Health Emergencies Programme. Special appearance by António Guterres, UN Secretary-General.

Watch LIVE today, Wednesday 9/22 at 11am ET/ 8am PT/ 5pm CEST at gzeromedia.com/globalstage.

Sign up here to get updates about this and other upcoming GZERO Media events.

Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

How will the QUAD leaders address the microchip supply chain issue during their meeting this week?

Well, the idea for leaders of the US, Japan, India, and Australia, is to collaborate more intensively on building secure supply chains for semiconductors, and that is in response to China's growing assertiveness. I think it's remarkable to see that values are becoming much more clearly articulated by world leaders when they're talking about governing advanced technologies. The current draft statement ahead of the QUAD meeting says that collaboration should be based on the rule of respecting human rights.

More Show less


On the one hand, UN Secretary-General António Guterres believes COVID has fractured trust between mainly rich and poor countries, especially on vaccines, as the pandemic "demonstrated our enormous fragility." On the other hand, it generated more trust in science, especially on climate — practically the only area, Guterres says, where the US and China can find some common ground these days. Watch his interview with Ian Bremmer on the latest episode of GZERO World.

Well, we're in the thick of "high-level week" for the United Nations General Assembly, known as UNGA. As always, the busiest few days in global diplomacy are about more than just speeches and hellish midtown traffic in Manhattan. Here are a few things we are keeping an eye on as UNGA reaches peak intensity over in Turtle Bay.

More Show less

Ahead of the 76th UN General Assembly, the US and the EU both agreed to cut methane emissions by at least 30 percent from 2020 levels by the end of the decade to reduce global warming. Will they convince other top emitters like China, Russia and India to do the same before the COP26 climate summit in November? This would be a big deal, because methane emissions, one-quarter of which come from agriculture, are the biggest contributors to climate change after carbon dioxide — and 80 times more potent in warming the planet. We take a look at the world's top methane emitters, compared with their respective carbon dioxide emissions.

Most of the hard-hitting conversations at the UN General Assembly take place behind closed doors. Still, during High-Level Week, when leaders get up to speak at the podium, it's their one big shot to send a message to representatives from the entire world. Here's some of what went down today:

More Show less

Imagine you're China. How would you feel if the some of the world's richest and most powerful countries, the US and its allies, were constantly joining forces against you, yet officially pretending not to?

More Show less

6.4 million: More than 6.4 million viewers tuned in live to watch K-pop band BTS give a speech at the UN General Assembly on Monday, where they called for young people to get vaccinated and become involved in fighting climate change. It's the most-watched clip ever on the UN's YouTube channel, shattering the previous record set by Emma Watson in 2014. By contrast, only a few thousand viewers checked out US President Biden's speech live the next day.

More Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

Ganging up on China

Signal

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal